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The Riches: The Last Temptation of Wayne (season premiere)

by Joel Keller, posted Mar 18th 2008 11:03PM
The Riches: The Last Temptation of Wayne(S02E01) As much as I liked the first season of The Riches, I thought the show had a couple of basic flaws. First, it seemed like too many episodes were about the con of the week rather than the "big con," which was the Malloys trying to pass for the Riches. But the most fundamental flaw of the entire first season was that, well... we just didn't find enough of a reason to like the Malloys. As despicable as the characters around them in Eden Falls were, we still felt that they were the victims of this family of Irish Travelers stealing the American Dream.

I think Dimitry Lipkin realized this, as the abbreviated second season of The Riches brings us a number of seedy characters that are so heinous that it makes the Malloys look like heroes. The season premiere just sets the table for what's to come.

Gallery: The Riches

Minne Driver as Dahlia MalloyEddie Izzard as Wayne MalloyMinnie Driver and Eddie IzzardTodd Stashwick as Dale MalloyNoel Fisher as Cael MalloyShannon Woodward as DiDi MalloyGregg Henry as Hugh PanettaAidan Mitchell as Sam MalloyMargo Martindale as NinaEddie Izzard as Wayne MalloyEddie Izzard as Wayne MalloyEpisode Gregg Henry in the episode Aidan Mitchell in the episode

I was thinking of doing an "Early Look" review for season two, as FX sent critics the first four episodes ahead of time. But after watching them, I figured that there was nothing I could say to attract someone who hadn't already been a fan of the show. As usual, the performances of everyone in the cast were fantastic. But what went on in the season premiere, despite the season one recap at the start of the show, really just continues where season one left off.

And where did we leave off? Dale had infiltrated Eden Falls and is threatening to blow Wayne and Dahlia's cover; Doug Rich's old friend Pete Mincy, who the Malloys were trying to keep from ratting them out, ran afoul of the violent Dale; neighbor Nina's marriage fell apart after her husband revealed he's gay; Hugh Panetta lost his mojo after his new stripper wife dumped him; and in general the Malloys were ready to go back to the RV and run to Mexico.

What we find out is that Dale's just smart enough to not let them leave, but not smart enough to hurt Pete without killing him. So as Dahlia, the kids, Doug's Cherien Rich's mother (yes, she's part of the family, at least for a few episodes) and Nina hightail it out of town in the Mercedes, Wayne and Dale deal with what to do with Pete. Poor Arye Gross. He has a nice meaty guest role last season, and this year, he's just a body in the trunk of a Mustang.

Almost the entire first episode sees Wayne separated from the rest of this family, as the Pete situation is complicated by the arrival of a drunken Hugh. I wonder if the writers wanted to make Hugh a little more sympathetic by having his wife dump him: he was a world class asshole most of last year, and it made me wonder why Wayne would waste time on the guy, despite the buffer life sucking up to Hugh provided. What we learn here is that there's an even bigger deal brewing, one that is going to drive the Malloys for the rest of the season. There has to be some way to bring the Malloys back together and bring them back to the Riches' house, right? But we can talk about that more as the season goes along.

Interesting stuff:

  • Dale and Hugh in the same room is a dangerous thing. Though, the best dramatic tension in the episode comes when Dale holds the gun on the security guard as Wayne tries to tell him that shooting the guard is only going to screw things up for both of them.
  • It must be killing Wayne to have to be in this partnership with Dale. But at least he has Pete's death to hold over the big idiot; Dale thinks that Wayne killed the Riches, but can't be sure.
  • What happened to Hartley Underwood? Maybe she was with the boys from Paddy's Pub back east in Philly....
  • As much as I like Margo Martindale, I still don't really know what Nina's purpose is besides showing how desperate things are at Eden Falls. I'd like to see her character developed more this season.
  • Having her tail along with Dahlia and the kids was an interesting plot twist, but it has a very artificial kind of feel; Mother Morgenstern was one thing, considering she was out of it and had no one to take care of her. But Nina? It doesn't seem like a Traveler family would ever let an outsider join them in their conning adventures. Maybe that's a sign that the family is softening in the buffer world.
  • As for the kids: Cael is still doubting and obnoxious; DiDi is still emotionally in both worlds; and Sam... well, let's just say that Aidan Mitchell, who plays him, grew a lot between seasons, which doesn't help when the story just picks up from where it left off. He still is the young manifestation of Eddie Izzard, though, cross-dressing when the mood strikes. We'll hear more from the kids later this season.
  • Sam really does seem like he's the smartest Malloy, doesn't he? He's the only one who knew where the money was buried. He also seems to do well during the family's cons. He's got a future in either world.
As I said, we'll see as the season goes along that a lot of shitstorms are in store for the Malloys. The Malloys' moral struggle will be more acute than ever. Will it make them a more sympathetic family? I guess we'll all find out soon enough.

What did you think of Nina joining the Malloys as they escaped Eden Falls?
It was fun see how an outsider views the Traveler experience77 (53.1%)
She really didn't add anything to the plot.31 (21.4%)
It seems like a plot contrivance to me.37 (25.5%)

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Good recap and review.

Just a couple things I'd like to say...

Isn't the neighbor's name "Nona" not "Nina"? Not a big deal, but just something I noticed. Although, I haven't seen season 1 since it was aired last year, so maybe her REAL name is Nina... but I know everyone calls her Nona.

Also, when you said that there is no one to take care of Cherien's mother... the only reason there is no one to take care of her is because they stole her from the nursing home lol. So technically there is someone to take care of her... they could bring her back.. but I guess they have all become bonded to her in a way, so they don't want to. But that's the only thing that kind of bugs me about the whole family... that they took her from the home where she was getting proper medical treatment and such. Because in all honesty, the doctor in last night's episode was right... what they are doing IS elder abuse.

Other than that, I do have a liking for the family, in contrast to what you said in your review.. I've always really liked them and after watching only a few episodes when the series first started, I found them to be the heroes of the show.

March 19 2008 at 2:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to kickit's comment

I think that's debatable. Yes choosing to take her in a car and out of the comfortable home is dangerous (let alone letting her drink).

But overall taking her away from a place where she's just a patient and to a place where she's emotionally cared for isn't necessarily abuse. It's like, would you rather spend your elderly years with humans that care for you or laying about in a hospital.

March 26 2008 at 12:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think BC makes a good point, that there are plenty of characters in TV nowadays that are flawed and not likeable, but we root for them anyways. I think the viewer tends to identify with realistic characters more. Wayne and Dahlia are great because, like many of us, they pursue the American Dream, but with an outsider's perspective that can be equal parts disturbing and refreshing.

In terms of Nina, I'm a big fan of her role. There is a certain romanticism for some people about being a rolling stone taking what you need, and it makes sense that she finds that appealing. She's a good friend to Dahlia too.

March 19 2008 at 9:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
B. Williams

Nice recap.

But I believe it's "duffer" and not "buffer".

March 19 2008 at 9:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to B. Williams's comment

the writer is correct it's buffer.

if you need verification just check the viewer guide from the FX site. it's in the text next to Hugh on page 9

March 19 2008 at 10:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BC McKinney

The elderly woman is not Doug's mother, but Cherien's--the real one, not Dahlia, although clearly Dahlia has developed some kind of bond with her.

I actually find the Malloys to be quite likeable, although I don't understand why you think the protagonists need to be likeable. There are a number of very popular shows with evil lead characters who are sympathetic because the "normal" people who surround them are such obnoxious, annoying fools--Tony Soprano, Dexter, etc.

March 19 2008 at 1:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to BC McKinney's comment
Joel Keller

BC, you're right about the mother; it was Cherien's mom. As far as the likability issue is concerned... the main characters on a show don't need to be likable at all. But this series is supposed to show how much worse these grifters' lives are now that they've "settled down" and are chasing the American Dream. Last year showed it, but very subtly. Believe me, this year, it's no contest.

March 19 2008 at 8:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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